The result of the American election has taken the world by surprise. Against all the odds, Donald Trump succeeded where nobody expected him to, despite his refusal to release his tax retus, his mockery of a disabled reporter, demeaning remarks about women, and countless other controversies.
Trump was able to understand the pain of rural America and appealed to the country’s white majority, especially working- and middle-class voters. Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who has long supported Trump, has described him as “an imperfect candidate with a near-perfect message”.
Someone very familiar with this so-called “imperfect candidate” is Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. He spent nearly three decades chronicling Trump’s career, and in “The Making of Trump,” he presents little-known facts about the president-elect’s life.
“When Donald Trump rode down the Trump Tower lobby escalator live on national television in June 2015 to announce his campaign for president, nearly every joualist treated his candidacy as a vanity project. Not me,” the author writes.
Johnston knew that Trump meant what he said: He had been talking about the presidency since 1985. Three years later, he proposed himself as the running mate of President George Bush; it was eventually Dan Quayle who got the job.
In 2000, Trump also ran on the ticket for the Reform Party, a fringe group with far fewer members than the Democratic and Republican parties. It was during that brief campaign that Trump declared he would become the first person to run for president and make a profit.
“He coordinated his campaign appearances around them so the campaign would pay for the use of his Boeing 727 jet. It was classic Trump, seeing profit in everything, even politics. Few people knew about it,” says Johnston.
Trump again declared his candidacy in 2002. He dropped out again, saying that as much as the country needed him, his “Celebrity Apprentice” show needed him more. The joualists concluded that his campaign was a mere joke and consequently paid little attention to his announcement for the 2016 election.
Johnston believes that Trump displays more genius at exploiting joualists to his advantage than anyone else.
“Donald Trump is not a man who tries to understand how others perceive him. Rather, he dismisses those who do not see him as he sees himself,” he writes.
Trump also enjoys making money and giving advice on how to achieve success in life and business. He advises not to trust anyone, especially good employees — perhaps unsurprisingly given he has been a party in more than 3,500 lawsuits. Two of Trump’s mottos are “Always get even” and “Hit harder than you were hit”.
Throughout Johnston’s book we witness Trump’s ability to deflect investigations and scrutiny. When asked if he has always been completely truthful in his public statements about his net worth, Trump answered: “I try.”
“Trump’s answers were a remarkably candid explanation of his behavior, which he modulates in public to polish the careful image of his ability to make money through deal artistry. Whether being under oath prompted his candor or he simply felt relaxed after decades of lawsuits is unknowable,” writes Johnston.
This book takes a close look at the tycoon’s rise to power and at his career plagued by legal troubles and mounting controversy. But such details seemingly had little effect on voters, who last week propelled Trump into America’s top political position.
Perhaps Trump’s reality TV show prepared the people and paved the way for his presidential bid; maybe viewers watching “The Apprentice” became used to his mean outbursts, his scathing criticism and his unpredictable decisions. During his campaign, he often contradicted himself — but his followers, apparently, forgave him.
In this deeply researched account, David Cay Johnston takes us from the origin of the Trump family fortune all the way to the 2016 campaign. Will Donald Trump the president be the same as Donald Trump the candidate? He has the resolve and determination to initiate some radical changes. And the whole world is watching.